The Ugly Duckling

Concert pour la jeunesse
Broadcast by Radio-Canada on 04/02/1956
Producer: Françoys Bernier
Announcer: Henri Bergeron
Conductor and commentator: Wilfrid Pelletier with the CBC Symphony Orchestra
Pianist: André Savoie
Tenor: Jean-Paul Jeannotte
Graphic artist: Frédéric Back


For the children's music program Concert pour la jeunesse, Frédéric Back illustrated The Ugly Duckling, a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale set to music by the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. A series of drawings propped up on a lectern were filmed by one camera while another camera focused on the slowly turning pages of a large book created by Frédéric Back. As can be seen in the following excerpts, some of the hand-drawn elements were movable and were animated mechanically by the illustrator in time to the live music.


At the time, Frédéric Back was a freelance artist, with Radio-Canada as one of his main clients. The broadcaster commissioned him to illustrate only a few programs in the Concert pour la jeunesse series, which was generally more technical and aimed at the Jeunesses Musicales audience. Back accepted the commission for The Ugly Duckling primarily because of its theme of tolerance and not judging others by their appearance. He used very descriptive, amusing drawings to retain the interest of young viewers. Conductor Wilfrid Pelletier found these illustrations so appealing that he made slides of them and often used them when presenting Prokofiev's piece to students at The Juilliard School in New York.